Preseason is now upon us, and that can only mean one thing: we are right around the corner from the best time of the year. That’s right: soon, you’ll get to alienate yourself by being the most rabid, most obsessive fan of the least popular Big Four sport in America. Can you smell it in the air? Ah. Eau de desperation, with distinct notes of please like my sport.
But what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if there was a way to convince your closest friends, the people you love and cherish with your whole self, to lower themselves into your chasm of depression and morbidity, effectively joining you in your sick, ugly quest to support the most mediocre sports team on planet Earth, probably in the entire galaxy?
If you have ever found yourself wondering this very question, then boy, I’ve got good news for you: I had already written one thousand words about this very concept, and the introduction to this article was just a fun way of justifying those words!
Ladies and gentleman, what follows is a comprehensive approach to seduction that I have perfected over the years. See, my success with recruiting new fans does not solely stem from my good looks and my charm. There is a careful, systemic approach that has allowed me to become the reaper of souls that I am today.
It is a fool-proof, five-point plan to convince just about anyone in your life to drop whatever smart shit they normally do in favor of doing a dumb, bad thing: namely, being a Philadelphia Flyers fan.
Behold: the W.A.Y.N.E. system.
W: Wait for the right moment
The first step of the plan is absolutely critical, and even a small misstep here can ruin your chances of dragging a friend into your misery, into your great and terrible guilt.
You must wait until they do not suspect it.
This poses several challenges. If you read articles like this one, you are surely an annoying and self-righteous bastard who talks about hockey much too much. You would probably need a muzzle to stop from discussing the intricacies of Carter Hart’s development or how Nolan Patrick is gonna kick the shit out of his sophomore season. I would have to smash your phone in order to get you to stop participating in twitter arguments about how some man thinks Jake Voracek is secretly expendable. How, then, do we find a moment when someone does not suspect your action?
You must wait until they are totally weak.
It may seem a bit below you, but nothing is below you. Plus, it’s a simple and effective tactic: wait until their disappointment consumes them, and then strike. It doesn’t really matter what the disappointment is. It could be work-related, a break-up, or maybe even the failure of another sports team. Offer them a comforting word, a shoulder to cry on. Listen to them. Empathize. Surely, you have had the taste of disappointment in your mouth for years, unable to wash it away.
A: Arrange the inciting incident
The inciting incident is what will plant the seeds of new self-loathing in your friend’s head. The best inciting incidents bring them as close as humanly possible to the game without bodily harm. That’s why, whenever possible, I advise bringing them to a Flyers game. There is simply nothing like it: the thumping of the sound system, Lauren Hart’s silky vocals, hormones at an all time high, bodies crashing together, the screams of fans, boozed up and blasted by icy air. Hot and cold, mon frère. Hot and cold.
We’ll use the inciting incident as a friendly way of cheering them up, of distracting them, so try not to let on too much. Let the game do the work for you. Let the fever overwhelm and ensnare them.
Y: Yawn, collect yields
It is important that, after the inciting incident, you take a step back. Let the moment take root, let the fervor calm from a rolling boil to a subtle simmer. This may seem counter-intuitive, of course: instinct would have you jump, reinforce the feelings immediately, but let me assure you, a small break is necessary. No one wants to feel bombarded or forced into something. You don’t want to corner an injured animal. You want to lure it out.
Play it cool, and watch the magic work.
Without a doubt, they will come to you, filled with shame for having brought dishonor into their home, and they will be invested, the nasty hooks of obsession jammed into their flesh like long, yellowing fingernails after just one taste.
At this point, their fandom has been solidified: once they have bridged the gap and actively sought you out for the sole purpose of discussing hockey, the battle has been won. You need only tie up loose ends.
I’m sure they will have some questions. We all had questions when we first got started: when do I have to change my twitter avatar to a picture of Claude Giroux sniffing? Do I have to interject hockey into every conversation, or can I implement a one-on-one-off system? Do I start writing for a blog now, or should I wait a month or two? Is it normal to feel uncomfortable when the conversation is not about Shayne Gostisbehere’s smile?
Let them know that their questions are valid and that they’ll figure everything out in time. This is a lie, but lies are good sometimes.
E: Engage frequently
In order to properly foster and care for the fledgling relationship built on one of the most frustrating and emotionally draining sports franchises of all time, it is imperative that you continue to engage. Absence does not make the heart grow fonder. That is some old-timey horseshit.
Get in their face. Make sure they look at Claude Giroux’s instagram at least once per day, and make sure they sigh happily when they see pictures of his dogs. Grab their phone. Go to Youtube and look up Flyers highlight videos for an hour so that all their recommended content is hockey-related. Buy them merch. Reinforce the idea that the only color that truly exists is orange, that all the rest of the colors are fabrications meant to control you and keep you placated, the shadow organization that runs the United States government pulling the strings. Tell them they look great in orange, even though they don’t, no one does. Begin every conversation with “You see that shit on Twitter? Dave Hakstol is such a moron,” and wait for their impassioned and unnecessarily heated agreement.
If you do it right, and you follow all the steps above to the letter, their life will become sickness and pain, and it is your duty to ensure that they never get well, lest your loneliness eat you alive.
Happy hockey season, go Flyers!